Dead Living Things: A Cabinet of Curiosities in the Postcolony

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article offers a reflection on a research-led practice project titled Dead Living Things: A Cabinet of Curiosities in the Postcolony through which I explored how academic research can inform and be extended into creative practice. While the project resulted in both creative and textual outputs, the focus here is on the creative output, consisting of a physical cabinet of curiosities filled with a curated collection of found objects, accompanied by a catalogue/artist’s book in hard copy and digital format. The creative work aimed at exploring how a cabinet of curiosities can be used to tell stories informed by postcolonial theory that confront colonial narratives in the contemporary South African context. This article contextualises the creative output by discussing the history of cabinets of curiosities and pointing out their link to colonialism and their influence on contemporary art. This is followed by a reflection on the development of the project, which I carry out by plotting my process onto the iterative cyclic web model of practice-led research and research-led practice developed by Hazel Smith and Roger Dean. I conclude by describing the content, categorisation, and display of the cabinet and the catalogue. Research-led practice, which involved an extensive literature review, visual research, and archival research, guided the conception of the content and form of the final work and resulted in creative work with the potential to be recognised as research output. I found the iterative cyclic web model useful for describing and understanding how the project unfolded, and for understanding the many other possibilities for approaching and developing creative output as research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-60
Number of pages28
JournalDe Arte
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • cabinet of curiosities
  • colonialism
  • creative research
  • iterative cyclic web
  • postcolonialism
  • practice-led research
  • research-led practice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies


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